Pain of social exclusion can be deep, long-lasting

May 11th, 2011 - 4:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 11 (IANS) Ostracism or being boycotted by your community may not leave outer scars but it can cause pain that often is deeper and lasts longer than a physical injury.

“Being excluded or ostracised is an invisible form of bullying that doesn’t leave bruises, and therefore we often underestimate its impact,” said Kipling D. Williams, professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University.

“Being excluded by high school friends, office colleagues, or even spouses or family members can be excruciating. And because ostracism is experienced in three stages, the life of those painful feelings can be extended for long term.

“People and clinicians need to be aware of this so they can avoid depression or other negative experiences,” said Williams, reports the journal Current Directions in Psychological Sciences.

When a person is ostracised, the brain’s dorsal anterior cingulate cortex — which registers physical pain, also feels this social injury, Williams said.

The process of ostracism includes three stages — the initial acts of being ignored or excluded, coping and lastly resignation, according to a Purdue statement.

“Being excluded is painful because it threatens fundamental human needs such as belonging and self-esteem,” Williams said. “Again and again research has found that strong, harmful reactions are possible even when ostracised by a stranger or for a short amount of time.”

More than 5,000 people have participated in studies using a computer game designed by Williams to show how just two or three minutes of ostracism can produce lingering negative feelings.

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